Sometimes, for various reasons, we put ourselves last. In fact, in many ways, we are taught to do so from a very early age.
Often children are taught to let others go first, hold the door for others, don’t run to be at the front of the line, share your treats, did you bring enough for the whole class, etc., etc.
Later in life, these ideas are reinforced in other areas of our lives. I still remember the concept that Leaders Eat Last, which is a principle that I was first introduced to when I was in the military and has taken on some traction in corporate America and in the startup community.
And for good reason, I agree with a lot of these sentiments of being polite and considerate and building meaningful teams by giving our all to others and all that goes along with that.
However, sometimes we can easily blur the lines of looking out for our own interest v. the interests of others. As a result, we’ll often invest our time, energy, and money in other people and their goals and dreams while putting our own dreams and goals on hold.
One of the challenges I have is that at my core I’m a problem solver. I always have been. And therefore, I have a tendency to invest a lot of my time in solving problems, puzzles, thought exercises, philosophical conundrums, et al.
When it comes to other people it’s very easy for me to get caught up in their challenges and obstacles and view their challenges as problems to be solved, and then, in true problem solver fashion, I jump in to work the problem/s.
The trouble with this process is that while I’m working on other people’s challenges, no one is working on my challenges.
Now I want to be perfectly clear, I believe that we should always support other people when appropriate and invest in our healthy friendships and relationships but never to the detriment of ourselves and our families. I’ve learned over the years, to consciously and purposely make significant investments of time and energy in myself before making similar investments in others.
I use a simple test to make sure that I am following this process in my relationships that I call the oxygen test.
If you’ve ever flown on an airplane, you will understand this simple concept. When explaining the safety procedures before each flight, a flight attendant will explain seatbelt signs, emergency exits, and other important information. Each time they go through this rehearsed script they will always then explain it is very important that; “…You put on your oxygen mask first before assisting others.” or words to that effect.
So as a leader in my community, at my job, and in other areas in my life I believe that it is necessary for me to always focus on what I am bringing to the table, what I’m giving to others, and less about what I am receiving and at the same time, I have to make sure to understand, that before I can help others, I have to be well enabled myself and that often means investing in my own education, my own finances, my own family, my own health, my own relationships, and then helping others from a position of stability and strength.
At this point in my life, I want to be ever mindful to invest my time, energy, and money in productive and healthy people and activities that yield positive results for myself and others while at the same time ensuring that I invest in my own dreams and goals.
Much of life is about balance and I always want to think about how I can bring balance to my life and my efforts. Sometimes it is as simple as asking not what I can afford to do, but what I can’t afford not to do.
To your success!